It's Okay If You Didn't Like Illmatic: The Subjectivity Of Hip-Hop

Written By: Brandon Loftin (Follow Brandon on twitter: @LowKey__B)

It seems like in the world of Hip Hop, there are songs or albums so massively liked, that if you're apart of the rare group that doesn’t like the song or album, you’re ostracized. I personally think Nas’ Illmatic is one of these albums so massively liked, you're outcasted for disliking or claiming it to be overrated. Illmatic can be replaced with the name of any other largely favored album such as The Marshall Mathers EP, The Chronic (Dr. Dre), All Eyez on Me (Tupac), or even modern ones such as TPAB (Kendrick Lamar) or Drake’s most recent album, Nothing Was The Same.

I'm here to tell you that it’s okay if you aren't/weren’t completely worshipping these albums like most of the hip hop world. You might actually be one of the only people keeping it real by admitting to your distaste. Especially in the world of social media, people’s opinions are often swayed by a number of retweets, likes, or favorites. People can go on twitter without hearing the new Kendrick, and due to reaction/review tweets, already have a preconceived notion of what to expect. This in a way ruins the experience for that personal listener. If that person was to read a tweet giving a bad review of a particular album or song, their expectations might be swayed.

I remember when the Carter IV came out, a twitter-wide hashtag came out called #ThingsBetterThanCarterIV. I read these tweets before listening to the album and yes, in my opinion, it was less than stellar but before I even put the headphones in I expected it to suck ass and I wanted to find a reason not to like it. Music is subjective in itself, but hip hop has so many variations that it may be one of the more idiosyncratic genres. Hopefully this will end the aimless arguments over who is better between Gucci Mane or Drake.

It all has to do with what type of sound are you looking for. I remember when I first heard To Pimp A Butterfly, I was disappointed. I voiced my dissatisfaction with my friends and they replied with comments like “WTF”, “You’re an idiot” etc. I realized now that this was during my Young Thug phase, in which I had Barter 6 on repeat. Any rap fan knows the stark differences in style between Young Thug and Kendrick. I didn’t take this into account and when I pressed play on TPAB I expected heavy bass and ignorant rapping. It was like looking for vegetables in the candy aisle. Kendrick’s lyrical depth strongly outweighs his production and at the time it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. This is a very important part of getting the full effect of a song or album.

Someone might say that Chance The Rapper isn’t good. But just because you won’t hear him played at a club while you and your friends jump around pushing girls out of the way doesn’t mean he’s not good, just not suitable for the occasion. Earlier I used Gucci Mane vs Drake as an example of an argument but the truth is, you cannot argue these two. This like comparing Tom Brady vs. Ray Lewis, two different positions. Drake and Wop are 2 entirely different types of hip hop. Gucci’s shallow, brash, lyrics mixed with Atlanta trap beats releasing in large volumes of music makes him one of the best trap rappers in the game. Keyword here is trap. Trap music isn’t supposed to be lyrical or even necessarily relatable, it’s an escape into a fantasy world where we all whip bricks, hit licks, and finesse plugs. Drake, however, is not that. His emotional, and probably, more life applicable lyrics make him a fan favorite. Both are great in their respective style, but arguing the two is comparing apples to oranges.

The truth of the matter is don’t be embarrassed to say you don’t like a popular music piece, but also don’t hate on someone else either. It’s all about the personal listener’s mood at the time, taste, and reception.